The Pursuit of Happiness in Typical American by Gish Jen

What is America? America is the land of the free were individuals can find opportunity for prosperity and success. Many people immigrate to America for the hope of achieving more from their lives. People dedicate their lives to hard work, sacrifices, and risk-taking in hopes of achieving the American Dream. Thus, it allows anyone regardless of race or color to reach upward mobility and obtain true success and happiness. In Typical American by Gish Jen, she reinvents the American immigrant story through the use of the Chang family. Ralph, his sister Theresa and wife Helen, find themselves clinging to old world ideas of themselves. But as they begin to dream the American Dream, they become people who were secluded in America to American themselves. Jen shows although chasing the American Dream can create identity and opportunities, it can also be corrupt.

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 Ralph, along with the rest of the family, begin to create a major identity for themselves through the journey to the west. Ralph’s voyage from communist China to America helps create an identity when his father sends him to the west in the hopes that receives a degree. As described, “ He was going to be first in his class, and he was not going home until he had his doctorate rolled up to his hand his father”(Jen 6). Ralph’s father ideology for Ralph is placed under the impression that Ralph was sent to America to fulfill a degree. Ralph’s major and impactful views were to help himself create an identity through completing school. As an individual of chinese heritage, he was seen to complete a specific goal in coming to America to study. Through his travels in America we see Ralph come across several different lands, the land of opportunity, from the Golden Gate Bridge, to the final destination of New York City. He describes America saying, “ That splendor!  That radiance! True, it wasn’t the Statue of Liberty, but still in his mind its span glowed bright, an image of freedom, and hope, and relief for the seasick” (Jen 7). Ralph begins to describe the American Dream in an image, the advancement and industrial workers in a culture were the dream of fulfilment is obtainable. No matter the place where an individual comes from, the radiancy the dream carries allows Americans to dream to the fullest and break through barriers placed on people.

 In Addition, Ralphs beliefs of American identity change when he comes across Pete, the supervisor of the building in which Ralph and Helen make their first home. Struggling to survive in a broken- down apartment, they mock their manager Pete, who fulfills their notion of a “typical American”. Ralph said, “here was the most irritating thing: fly open, feet up on his legless desk, dog at the door, he often be thumbing through course catalogs… A man, Pete said was what he made up his mind to be, that man is fooling himself” (Jen 67). Ralph discusses Pete as a man, was what he made up his mind to be in the idea of being a typical American. Pete, as a typical American, would carry no morals and say things but do absolutely nothing. He would  decide to fix their broken down apartment, then claim it was fixed. As their time spent in America begins to lengthen, they begin to see traits of true identity. Ralph would see Pete and his representation of the American ideals through the things he does and by his personality towards them.

Furthermore, Ralph meets back with one of his friends, Old Chao, and is introduced to his successful landlord Grover, whose identity strikes Ralph’s attention. He begins to see the different traits of Grover when his behavior has differed from others saying, “What Ralph would have done then to leave with him–good-by, Old Chao and his tenure- track job offer! Good-by, social nicety! Ralph could only ogle, though, helpless with envy, as Grover balled up his napkin. He did not push his chair in” (95). Grover is shown as ignoring the social norms and not caring about what others think of him. He was a man who simply believed in the American Dream, and Ralph would become “lovestruck” onto the idea that he himself can imagine and make up his mind to be successful and ignore social norms. Therefore,  Ralph begins to surround himself with Grover as he takes him to eat a diner, Grover tells him, “ I’m a millionaire. A self- made man. What do you think of that? In America, anything is possible” (106). Grover speaks on the start of how he got his riches and status he has today. Ralph’s admiration draws him to emulate him, and seek the Dream and fulfillment that Grover has. His strong businessman traits with no college degree and true success creates the idea for Ralph that the Dream does exist, by doing it and imagining it anything can be achieved. Thus, Ralphs identity is furthered developed as an individual who become anything and do anything, because Grover’s idea of the American Dream allows it to happen.

 The American Dream can be fulfilling for individuals, but it can also allow them to reach new opportunities of success. Years go by and Ralph and Helen have kids, Ralph goes to school and receives the degree and soon becomes an assistant professor, As a sign of his rise and success, he finally buys a car from Old Chao. As Theresa adds “Seems like someone’s becoming one- hundred- percent Americanized” as Ralph states, “What’s so American? We had a car, growing up. Don’t you remember? Everywhere we go, we can keep the children inside. Also they won’t catch cold” (128). We see Ralph begin to fill himself with the idea of being Americanized by getting Old Chao’s car representing the ideals that Americans seek toward the American Dream. After several moments of waiting for it, he believes he has succeeded with his dream.He has started to fill his life with consumerism in the hopes of appealing to the American Dream.

Furthermore, Ralph’s open opportunities he received from the car and school helps create the idea of an American identity and lifestyle when they decide to purchase a house. Ralph comes across the suburbs of Connecticut when he along with his sister, wife and kids celebrate him getting his license. As they drive through the suburbs, they decide to buy a house down their with the enthusiasm and intention to seek the American lifestyle, offering opportunities to pursue more in there lives as stated, “ When did they realize that a town like this was their destiny– that if they drew out the line of their past it would pass through this point, that however it curved afterward, for some time they would dwell in a house like one of these” (135). The idea that Ralph had a possibility of being a self made man like Grover created the idea that he can pursue the American Dream through his hard work and determination of things. Under American ideals, it was the Dream to have a car, the beautiful jubilant family and house with a lawn so fresh and colorful. Laurence Shames in his essay, “The More Factor,”states that, “ Frontier; opportunity; more. This has been the American trinity from the very start, the frontier was the backdrop and also the raw material for the streak of economic booms” ( Shames 78). What Shames means by this idea is that America is built on these ideas of needing more and succeeding in the world is needed to fulfill what it means to be an American. Along with doing things the American way given with the opportunities that people are able to get at the moment in time, through values hopes and ambitions, these ideas grow.  America is obsessed with the concept of growth and having more, the main point is that the notion of having more has always been an essential ideal to this country and is still is. Individuals fill their happiness with the next big thing in the market. In order to have more, growing is necessary and Americans have always found a way to do this. Ralph has shown the qualities by his consumerism and American ideals of getting a car, a house in the suburbs and having a wife and two kids.

Moreover, Ralph’s opportunities are opened when Grover decides to help Ralph open up a chicken restaurant. Grover has asked Ralph for a check to purchase the building as a favor in return that Ralph will have a new thriving business. As an addition, if the business is not growing, he can simply go back to teaching. Ralph further states, “Money. In this country, you have money, you can do anything. You have no money, you are nobody. You are Chinaman! Is that simple” (Jen 199). Ralphs chicken business begins to flourish, while he finds ways to make the business profitable. He believes in the concept that money is the answer for anything in life, creating the same ideals other Americans have towards it. Ralph alongside his wife Helen work together and begin to become respected. Becoming profitable in the business, Ralph begins to purchase many consumer items and achieve success. James Roberts in his essay, “The Treadmill of Consumption,” states that, “ that treadmill is a barrier to raising your level of happiness, because it causes you to quickly adapt to good things by taking them for granted… the process of moving ahead materially without any real gain in satisfaction” (Roberts 119). What Robert means by this is that through the treadmill, individuals instantly are in a cycle of consumerism that makes them adapt to new things, but have no further direction towards true happiness. Ralphs ideal life is to be somebody by having money, because he is nothing without it. Through his consumption he addresses what it means to be an American. But often times, the idea of having money and consumption can create corruption.

Nevertheless, although the American Dream carries opportunities and success, it can also be corrupted through individuals in society. Grover has sold the land to Ralph knowing it was built badly on soil of rotting logs, to take his money and benefit from Ralph’s decisions. As stated, “there lot had been a pit, into which someone dumped trees… having long since to started to rot; the land… was unstable and unbuildable” (244). Grover had gave Ralph a restaurant where it’s foundation was bad and began to sink. Throughout Ralphs growth and change towards the American Dream, the restaurant slowly collapsing represents the dream falling apart and being corrupt. Ralph had left his job and pursued to focus on what Grover gave him, when in fact it hurt Ralph’s success. He focused so much on his benefits toward achieving the American Dream, without realizing the effects and corruption that came with it. His American dream has become corrupted by the culture of wealth and opulence that surrounds him. Thus, although the Dream was beneficial, it also caused corruption on his life and the things he desired.

 Lastly, although chasing the American Dream can create identity and opportunities, it can also be corrupt. The American Dream is universal in that everyone hopes for positive change and that the change deals with their place in society. As the land of opportunity, immigrants believe they can pursue a change. The American Dream is something that everyone aspires for, even if it is hard to accomplish, no matter the race. It is the thing that keeps people going, creating opportunities and identities for people. The American Dream can be corrupt from what it truly is, but it allows people to be pushed to become something better.  Because people have different perspectives on the Dream, it is up to the individuals to find true happiness in their society as an American.

Works Cited

Jen, Gish. Typical American. Vintage Books, 1991.

Maasik, Sonia and Jack Solomon, editors. Signs of Life in the USA. Bedford/ St Martin’s, 2018. 

Roberts, James. “The Treadmill of Consumption.” Signs of Life in the USA Ninth Edition, edited by Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon, Bedford/ St Martin’s, 2018, pp. 117-123.

Shames, Laurence. “The More Factor.” Signs of Life in the USA Ninth Edition, edited by Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon, Bedford/ St Martin’s, 2018, pp. 76-82.


Pursuit of Economic Growth

For any country, in order to develop it is essential that it has to produce many goods and services. Economic growth is the main target that every country is aiming for. However, the road for the growth of economics for any country has its gains and problems. This essay will examine the advantages and the disadvantages of pursuing the economic growth in the long run interest.

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In order to examine to topic, it is important to how to measure economic growth and why economic growth of a country happens. Economic growth is measured by the annual percentage rate of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is determined by the market value of goods and services which are manufactured by the economy during a certain period of time. It is considered to be “the most fundamental indicator of an economy’s health” (The guardian, 2006)(1). For example, United Kingdom, which is a developed country, has a GDP level of 2.472 trillion dollar by 2012 (Worldbank)(2). The main reason of economic growth is the consistent growth of demand. This can be caused by an massive growth of money expenditure. This is because if the government lowered interest rates to try and make people buy more and spend less. People will go out and borrow money to buy houses and cars, which they would normally not be able to afford because their income cannot help them to pay with normal interest. This results in economic growth. However, this only can help countries to pursuit economic growth in the short run. In order to pursuit in the long run, there are number of requirement that needs to be met. Firstly, natural resources are important, especially land. If a country has many natural resources, this will give it a strong boost in the pursuit. Secondly, in a world nothing is free; it is required capital to pursuit the growth. Thirdly, the greater the level of growth, the more demand from the labour. Government need to spend more government expenditure (taxes) on education in order to help people to have more business skills, which is essential in the long run.
Every issue always has two-side. Economic growth also has benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, there are a number of advantages for pursuit economic growth. First, economic growth helps the people to increase their income. The more economic growth gets, the higher demand for labour require producing more goods and services, which means more job opportunities. Economic growth will make people want to consume more. If the rate of population growth is smaller than economic growth outstrips population growth, real income per head will be increased. This may result to a higher level of consumption of goods and services which is required to satisfy because people now have more money to spend. Consequently, higher expectations will begin to appear. Organisations will need more investment in order to improve their productivity. Investment is required to make improvements and make the obsolete disappear. The more economy grows the more investment it will attract because country with high GDP rate brings more confidence to investors. Because of the rise in demand, the level of output will be increased. In order to meet the targets, firms will need more labour workforce. Therefore, more people will be employed so people .Consequently, people are able to afford higher quality goods and service to satisfy their needs. Furthermore, the level of unemployment will be reducing due to the higher outcome manufacturer require more labour forces. Secondly, economic growth also improves better standards of living. With the increase of consumption of goods and services, society gets more money to improve standards of living. Economic growth helps government to differentiate income from the rich to the poor without losing. The money gained from taxes can be used to fight against poverty and improve services. Government can spend more money on public services such as National Health Care (NHS), education and the environment… With more money which is spent on health care service, this improves quality of life through treating diseases and life expectancy. With the increase quality of health care, people can live longer. Therefore, it is possible to produce more goods and services. Education is the most crucial determinant element of welfare. The more money is spent on education, the higher goods and services organisations can manufacture due to higher degree of workforce. Furthermore, education makes people understand the importance of preserving the environment. When people became richer, people are able to afford to take care of the environment. People are more concerned about the environment where they are living. Therefore, new regulations have been introduced by the government to ensure that people have a clean environment (for example, the Clean Air Act to prevent the Great Smog in 1952 from happening again). With the increase of real GDP, people can use more resource to limit the use of natural resources and promote renewable resources. The government can promote recycling through education. However, economy growth still has downside despite its advantages.
On the other hand, it cannot be denied that there are a number of disadvantages because of economic growth. Firstly, the risk of high inflation always comes with economic growth. If demand is more than supply, this will make the price set to increase. This happens to most developing countries with high population level. India is a good example to examine. India is one of countries which has high population level and has a booming economy. However, with the high demand which is more than supply the price has been risen. Therefore, manufactures with higher cost have to raise the price of their goods and services too. It is said that “India has been struggling to control what is Asia’s highest inflation level, which was running at about 10% last year” (bbc, 2014)(3). This make rupee which is currency of India loses its value by 14%. Two-third of the population of India only has two dollars to spend a day. Due to the lack of income, people in India have to consume less goods and services, which may lead the close down of factories. This make the unemployment level go up significantly. This may leads to an increase in crime However, if the factories are not closed, people will have work more hours to produce more goods to reach the point that supply is equal to demand. Consequently, this will make employees upset. In order to deal with the rise of inflation, the Indian government has to increase the interest rate (ft, 2014).(4) Therefore, the inflation will fall. This will helps the Indian government in order to lower the demand, which will make price go down. Secondly, economic growth might cause unemployment. In order to produce more goods and services, people are always looking for new ways to increase productivity. This makes the economy become more industrial. Therefore, no matter how talent employees are or have many years of experiment, they will always become obsolete. Also, with development of technology machines now can manufacture more than human, which is reduced cost in the long run. Therefore, old obsolete job will be replaced by new job. This may result in high unemployment rate. Thirdly, economic growth may make the gap between the rich and the poor become wider. People who have high level of skills will look for job which pay them most in order to be satisfied. Therefore, people always tend to go to developed country so they have can have the job they want. For example, people who have high level of experiment will not stay at Greece which is in crisis and look for job opportunities. They will go to other developed countries such as United Kingdom, Germany, or Spain in order to get the job which they want. Consequently, developed countries always have more and better staff than developing countries. So, developed countries will always produce more goods and services. This makes the gap between them become wider. Finally, economic growth always results in pollution. With the demand to produce more natural resources will be forced to be run out. The resource of the world is limited. For example, trees will be cut down more in order to build more factories to manufacture, which leads to deforestation. Therefore, the level of CO2 which is released into the atmosphere will increase significantly. It cannot be denied the global warming has become one of the most serious environmental issues that we have to deal with. Because of the rise of temperature, the Arctic ice has melted. Consequently, this threats not only to coral reefs worldwide but also to land resources, which means we will have less land to use. In order to pursuit economic growth, both developed and developing have already damaged the environment. Most of the developing countries used to have problems with air pollution. For example, in 1952, England had suffered air pollution. The smog had killed many people. To prevent this disaster from happening again in the future, the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968. It is said that “these acts banned emissions of black smoke and decreed residents of urban areas and operators of factories must convert to smokeless fuels” (metoffice).(5)For developing countries, water pollution is the main problem. Many factories decided to reduce their cost by pouring industrial waste into the river. For example, in 2008, the authority had discovered that Vedan Vietnam which is a company produce monosodium glutamate (MSG) had been illegally released wastewater in Thi Vai River for 14 years, which killed the river’s system. This results not only in the death of thousands shrimps and fish of farmers but it also ruined farmland along side of the river. Furthermore, it affected the health the farmers who live near river.(abc,2010).(6)
In conclusion, after examine the benefits and drawbacks of pursuit economic growth, continuing growth in the economy would let the countries to gain many potential benefits such as raising the living standards, reducing the level of unemployment and attract more investment into the country. Nether less, it cannot be denied it has many drawbacks. However in saying this, different circumstances and scenarios require different approaches. Every country must pursuit economic growth with the right pace. If the growth goes too rapid, the risk of high inflation rate will become higher. Therefore, the governments play an important role in the pursuit in the long run. They needs to spend more money on public sector such transport, communication and health care. They also need to control the interest rate to prevent the inflation rate from going up too high. And finally, strict regulations need to be introduced in order to preserve the environment and it is crucial to invest more money into research alternative in order that alternative energy will replace natural energy.

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The Pursuit of Relative Gains in Regard to Climate Change

International Relations is a large field of study that has over time sparked several great debates concerning the actions of states, the presence of anarchy, and the meaning of power. Within the realm, two specific contemporary approaches have come to dominate the discussion about International Relations theory, they are neorealism and neoliberalism. Each of these schools of thought carries with them distinct differences in their ideologies and overall views of the international arena and the actors which comprise it. The root at both of the aforementioned theories holds the same: the worlds constant state of anarchy. The international arena is comprised of several independent states who are at all moments each seeking to maximize their own individual security and interests (Powell 1991, 1303). Where neorealism and neoliberalism develop their core differences arises only after first acknowledging their key similarity, anarchy. The first significant difference to note is how neorealism forms its arguments for how the world works based on its state-centric structure while neorealism strays from this view and rather upholds a mixed-actor model which includes the role of international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), multinational corporations and other non-state players (Powell 1991, 1304). The neoliberal view provides a more modern approach to international relations and thus incorporates several more actors and factors to the perceived actions of states than predominantly acknowledging military and diplomatic issues as neorealism focuses on (Powell 1991, 1304). In accordance with this, they concern themselves with absolute rather than relative gains in international interactions. Neoliberals believe that states are “rational egoists” and individualistic to the extent that they define their interests in terms of individual gains and are unconcerned with relative gains. Conversely, neorealists see it as a zero-sum game rather than a non-zero sum game and thus value relative gains instead (Powell 1991, 1306). The relative gains notion is based on the educated belief that states are constantly competing with one another and with this competition comes the incentive to cheat or the chance to be cheated (Powell 1991, 1306). On the other hand, the absolute gains notion is based on the belief that states are overall better off when they cooperate with each other as a result of the bounties of comparative advantages (Powell 1991, 1304). This debate between the two schools of thought ultimately poses the question: In the modern global political economy, is state behavior best explained by an absolute or relative gains perspective? I argue that while climate change politics is heavily influenced by the presence of institutions and non-governmental organizations, states are highly aware of and sensitive to relative gains concerns concerning a potential shift in their power status, therefore, the modern global economy is best described by the neorealist relative gains perspective.

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In this essay, I will first introduce the case study of climate change and its importance to our modern global political economy. I will follow this by explaining the liberal or absolute gains application to climate change politics, succeeded by a brief explanation of relative gains concerns stemming from realist theories. Ultimately, I conclude that realist and relative gains driven explanations of climate change better explain our current global system due to power-seeking goals. I will do this through measuring the countries involved perceived theoretical power in relation to other nations upon actions related to climate change mitigation. Theoretical power can be described as “the ability for policies and institutions [of a state] to determine the rate and direction of national incentive activity – the ability for outcomes to be influenced by a “causal force”” (Taylor 2016, 139).

The global system of industrial production brought several improvements that benefited international trade, the overall well-being of countries, and increased production capacity to rates never before achievable pre-industrialization; however, the expansive destructiveness of its long-term ecological effects was never fully understood or recognized until the late twentieth century (Oppenheimer 2016, 12). The imminent dangers to Earth’s prosperity as a result of factors including the continued emission of greenhouses gasses are very well known about today, but this has not stopped the human race from creating or attempting to reduce these environmentally harmful gasses. In 2019, there was an estimated 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, (Oppenheimer 2016, 19). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the earth is warming at alarming rates due to human activity, especially the consumption of fossil fuels (Oppenheimer 2016, 18). Furthermore, they predict that global warming will trigger widespread flooding of coastal regions, extreme weather such as droughts and hurricanes, and the disruption of food supplies (Oppenheimer 2016, 21). It is well known that change is best implemented through policy, so we as humans must make immediate and urgent changes to our policies and approaches to ecologically impactful issues. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done. It is increasingly more difficult to confront this grand challenge when the countries that will likely be hurt the most by climate change are significantly less wealthy, less developed, and more marginalized than the greater global powers with the full ability to take large-scale action.

Although climate change is now a collective concern whose detrimental effects will be felt by the entire world, one state, no matter how powerful it may be, does not have the individual capability to solve this global issue without cumulative cooperation from other nations

to provide effective global environmental security. The issue that arises from this situation is the contrasting viewpoints of the several nations that comprise the international system (Newell 2008, 509). The more advanced countries maintain a stance on climate change highly influenced by their political interests, while the less advanced countries tend to consider the morals of the situation rather than their own national interests (Newell 2008, 508). This situation ultimately aligns closely with the anarchical identity of the world as seen by liberals and realists alike. Both schools of thought are applicable to climate politics because addressing climate change and global warming brings with it problems of conflict and cooperation. They each have their own distinct view and explanation in explaining the extent to which complete cooperation is possible to address the issue at hand based on the gains the actors are pursuing. Climate change is inherently both an economic and a political issue, its roots stem from power, morality, and financial interests (Newell 2008, 510). Even though immediate change is theoretically possible, realistically, it creates the problem of which states would bear the short, medium, and long term financial costs that come with significant action that would occur from the changes (Bulkeley 2010, 230). If states to pursue absolute gains always, climate change politics would be a much simpler issue. However, because this is not the case, and states are interested in relative gains, it becomes a harder problem to address. 

In response to climate change, several NGOs, civil societies, and governmental institutions have implemented legislation and other proactive actions towards saving our planet. Liberalism best explains these efforts, specifically by legitimizing the existence of key international environmentally related institutions including the Kyoto and Montreal Protocol’s and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Realism does a poor job at explaining this because it claims that while these institutions may exist and help reduce anarchy to an extent, the international system remains virtually unchanged by them and they hold no real power over sovereign states (Powell 1991, 1306). The Kyoto Protocol, first introduced in December of 1997, was the first real international effort to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases, it was introduced as an amendment to the UNFCCC (Von Stein 2008, 243). Essentially, it was an international agreement with countries such as the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, and the United States. It sought to target and reduce industrialized countries greenhouse gas emission levels (Von Stein 2008, 246). In 2001 however, the United States withdrew from the agreement. This was a significant event for the protocol and it has been historically attributed to the blatant influence from fossil fuel lobby groups financial interests (Von Stein 2008, 247). It is also notable how the United States, as a great world power, is able to make their own rules and decisions in this matter regardless of the European Union’s pressure to comply due to their hegemonic status. It can be well argued that this withdrawal of support was an act towards relative gains over China by the United States. The increased tensions that arose between China and the U.S. during the Cold War continued on long after this period, as seen in the U.S.’s actions with the Kyoto Protocol (Von Stein 2008, 250). The Protocol would come with high costs of implementation for the United States, which would ultimately set the precedent for China to make gains in competitiveness (Von Stein 2008, 250). Another reason for the U.S.’s withdrawal was the lack of an agreement signed by developing countries to reduce their emissions, in this event, the developing countries were acting in a neorealistic manner, with their own national interests in mind. Less developed countries often create their share of greenhouse gas emissions through facilities that are necessary to provide the essentials of daily life (electricity, heating, and plumbing) to their citizens (Bulkeley 2010, 230). With an already limited and small national budget, the costs of implementing climate changing measures comes with too high a price tag and thus is against their self-interests and negatively risks their relative gains acquisitions (Bulkeley 2010, 231).

Climate change negotiations have also over time sometimes proven to have fostered more cooperation than the division that realist theory would predict. Realism sees this climate issue to be mainly motivated by power politics and national interests, but this has at times been the opposite of actual state actions (Von Stein 2008, 246). After the most powerful nation and the largest contributor of GHG emissions, the United States, pulled out, Russia joined in 2005, and the Kyoto Protocol was able to remain relevant without the U.S.. Realist’s theory of relative gains would incorrectly predict that without the United States’ support, the Kyoto Protocol would be rendered ineffective. This is because of the Hegemonic Stability Theory which holds that stability is provided by the presence of a dominant power (Milner 1998, 112). Realism is ineffective in predicting this because of its limited acknowledgement of NGOs and other institutions. Liberalism’s more inclusive agenda better depicts the current international system as it accounts for the outside forces involved in this dilemma. Cooperating in large-scale climate change measures internationally is not a matter of benefitting a single or a few of the top states, rather it is an issue that would affect, either positively or negatively, the entire globe. This being said, more liberal leaning policies where states concern themselves with absolute gains rather than the current reality where they are more concerned with relative gains would make for easier cooperation and thus make it easier to come together and work towards mitigating the detrimental effects that accompany climate change.

The issue of climate change is one with deep roots in power, money, and interests. Realism holds that states will seek to maximize their own security or national interests and are not necessarily interested in cooperating with each other (Grieco 1988, 487). With this issue affecting the entire world regardless of power status, realist theory predicts that because of relative gains, even with cooperation resulting in absolute gains for everyone, it may be difficult to swiftly execute because of the uneven distribution of the relative gains (Grieco 1988, 487). This realist theory is one explanation for why climate change negotiation has been so difficult for cooperation within politics. In the case of climate change, the benefits of cooperation go a lot farther than just national interests and the costs would be taken on by states in order to avoid the eventual greater catastrophe to our planets entire ecosystem and the overall wellbeing of mankind.

Climate change politics involves actors beyond the states themselves, these include institutions such as the UNFCCC, this is in line with the liberal explanations of the international system. Since these non-governmental institutions have such great impacts on pushing environmental issues and legislation, liberalism best explains this part of climate change politics. Scholars have argued that institutions come together to establish a network of interactions which “will be difficult to either eradicate or drastically rearrange” (Sequeira and Reis 2019, 5). What Sequeira and Reis are saying with this is that when a treaty governing states is established, in this case, one regarding climate change, states involved with the treaty will be bound to it, limiting

their future actions, this can eventually lead up to policy convergence.  With this reasoning, the liberal viewpoint of absolute advantage best explains how climate change politics has come to be a relevant point of discussion for states regardless of it being governed substantially by other institutions. However, because these institutions do not provide a solution the problem at hand, they do not best explain the gains that are sought after by states in our modern global political economy in regards to climate change.

 There is a very prevalent problem with relative gains concerns amongst states in regards to climate change politics which poses great problems in making progress towards solutions (Falkner 2015, 585). Public goods include goods that are nonexcludable and non-rivalrous, the global climate is an example of one. If we look at it through a realist perspective and assume that states care about relative gains, environmental cooperation bringing nonexcludable results is potentially a source of drawback from states wanting to cooperate with one another because no relative gains would result and there is no way to exclude the free-riders. Cooperation thus triggers relative gains concerns. Highly industrialized powerful states are limited in the amount they will want to choose to participate based on these worries. They are discouraged from taking greater measures because although the benefits would be global, the costs would be heavily distributed amongst a concentration of the top countries in the world (Falkner 2015, 588). With climate change politics increasingly becoming more relevant of a topic within national governments, there is a clearer and more thorough understanding of the costs associated with the adaptation of environmentally friendly policies as well as a heightened nervousness to international resource transfers because of awareness of rising economies like China (Falkner

2015, 592). Weighing the relative gains versus the potential benefits, developed countries are more likely to pursue their own self interests and conserve their resources rather than implement new and costly policies in pursuit of absolute gains. In this situation states will also opt to maximize their own power and thus pursue relative gains which does not do much for climate change mitigation but best explains the priorities of states in the international arena when confronted with as grand an issue as climate change.

 The potential regulation of greenhouse gas emissions would also lead to a hefty shift in international resource transfers which would pose yet again another concern with relative gains for participating countries (Falkner 2015, 586). If these environmental sanctions are placed only on countries within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the “Rich Countries Club”, issues of competitiveness would immediately arise as a result of the relocation of energy intensive industries to countries within East Asia, especially the aforementioned China and India. Even though international emissions trading under “perfect” cooperation has been studied and proven to benefit all actors, a few countries would receive undoubtedly higher relative gains than countries such as the United States, Japan, or those in the European Union would (Falkner 2015, 588). For realists specifically, this potential of China acquiring relative gains is not worth the benefits because they believe states should always be strong and ready for potential wars, and the upfront resource transfers that would occur through greenhouse gas reduction legislation would come at too great of a power cost to them. Therefore,

cooperation amongst all nations is highly unlikely as a result of relative gains concerns and an

indifference to absolute gains.

 In addition to relative gains concerns stemming from energy intensive industry

relocation, there is also tension regarding the predicted future costs of climate change damage. Just within the developing world, the United Nations evaluates mitigation costs to range around $200-$340 billion additionally each year (UNFCCC 2017) In the developing world this number decreases to $67-$130 billion per year, a still outrageous number (UNFCCC 2017). Currently, the twenty-three countries within the OECD contribute up to three times less to the Official Development Assistance Committee (ODA) than the predicted 0.7%-1.2% of their Gross National Income that would come as costs for mitigation and adaptation (UNFCCC 2017). The Montreal Protocol is an “international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion”. It involves rich countries paying dues to also help developing countries develop and install more ozone-friendly technologies, it currently budgets $166 billion per year, significantly smaller than the additional financing needed annually to drastically slow down climate change (Falkner 2015, 590) (UNFCCC 2017). With climate change financial estimates increasing over time, countries are likely to begin to reweigh the benefits of investing in that versus investing in their own domestic capabilities. The extent to which we will see countries participating in climate change efforts is highly reliant on the gains they are ultimately seeking (Falkner 2015, 592). Because a nation’s adaptive capacity is a direct translation of their material power and status, it would be reasonable to expect to see the most powerful (or power-seeking) states pursuing domestic adaptation. This in turn makes them more secure and independent of the issues surrounding international adaptation.

 The cost of climate change on a global scale has been historically been reported in

absolute terms. The Stern Review found that “the estimated effects of even ambitious climate change policies on economic output are estimated to be small – around 1% or less of national and world product, averaged across the next 50 to 100 years” (Stern 2007, 248). Furthemore, it maintains that efforts towards mitigation would come at a cost much smaller than the ultimate global payoff, making countries eventually more willing to cooperate. When viewing climate change through an absolute gains perspective, the rising relevance and increased interest in preventing further damages by climate change is enough to encourage eventual cooperation. But our current global political economy has not developed that far and states continue to occupy themselves with seeking relative gains. Although relative gains concerns will always exist in a state of anarchy, climate change is an issue that can only be resolved through state cooperation and by all involved countries concerning themselves more with absolute gains over relative gains for the betterment of our planet.

In this paper I have discussed the several aspects of climate change negotiations, drawing attention to the costs of climate change, the threat of future damages by it, and the relative gains concerns associated with it. After reviewing climate change politics in relation to the global political economy, I claim that relative gains can best describe this issue as it falls within power-based explanations of international relations.

Works Cited

Bulkeley, Harriet, Cities and the Governing of Climate Change (November 2010). Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 35, pp. 229-253, 2010.

Falkner, R. (2005). American Hegemony and the Global Environment. International Studies Review, 7(4), 585-599.

Grieco, J. (1988). Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest Liberal Institutionalism. International Organization, 42(3), 485-507.

Milner, H. (1998). International Political Economy: Beyond Hegemonic Stability. Foreign Policy, (110), 112-123.

Newell, P. (2008). The Political Economy of Global Environmental Governance. Review of International Studies, 34(3), 507-529.

Oppenheimer, M., & Anttila-Hughes, J. (2016). The Science of Climate Change. The Future of Children, 26(1), 11-30

Powell, R. (1991). Absolute and Relative Gains in International Relations Theory. The American Political Science Review, 85(4), 1303-1320.

Stern, Nicholas. The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Taylor, Mark Zachary. 2016. The Politics of Innovation: Why Some Countries Are Better Than Others at Science and Technology. Oxford University Press: Oxford. Chs. 4 and 5. Pg 69-139.

Von Stein, J. (2008). The International Law and Politics of Climate Change: Ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 52(2), 243-268.


Performance of the United Nations in the Pursuit of Universal Human Rights

The concept of human rights is not new or modern; yet gained traction on an international scale after the Age of Discovery (early 15th century to the 17th century), philosophical movements such as The Enlightenment, organisations, movements and treaties, namely The Geneva Convention, Civil Rights Movements and The United Nations. Human Rights have been incredibly controversial – particularly in our increasingly globalised world – which begs the question as to whether human rights are, or will be, universally achievable.  This essay seeks to discuss this question with reference to the performance of the United Nations in pursuit of this goal and will explore the origins of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the limitations and disadvantages of the Universal Periodic Review system, as well as cultural incompatibilities stemming from the declaration.

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In 1948, The United Nations General Assembly accepted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights put forward by a drafting committee composed of individuals from the USA, China, Lebanon and others (Brown, 2016).  The appearance of those from different nations aiding in the drafting process of the declaration is incredibly useful due to the fact it should permit the discussion of cultural differences and how they relate to the articles within the declaration – it is perhaps due to this that the United Nations (UN) were able to label their moral recommendations as ‘universal’.  It was accepted by 48 of the 58 member-nations with eight abstaining and two failing to vote.  The declaration set out 30 articles, encompassing political, civil, social and cultural rights for every individual regardless of religion, ethnicity, personal opinion, language and sex among others (The United Nations, n.d.).  This declaration allowed for the geographical expansion of the first-ever human rights declaration, The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man by rendering many of its points universal.  It also expanded upon The Four Freedoms – of speech, expression, religion, from want and fear – created by Franklin D Roosevelt (Roosevelt, 1947).  As stated by Gordon Brown (2016), former UK Prime Minister and UN Special Envoy for Global Education, “the Universal Declaration…is a milestone in the history of human interactions and the cause of human rights.” This can be shown through the number of international organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch whose goal is to ‘fight human rights abuses worldwide’ and ‘pressure those with power to secure justice’ through following the UN’s declaration (Amnesty International, 2019) (Human Rights Watch, 2019).  Therefore, if we take into account the international acclaim the declaration has received as well as the fact that its creation was not solely from one culture, country or civilisation, it could be considered truly inclusive and more importantly, universal.
On the other hand, it could be said that the United Nations have made a terrible error in how human rights violations are brought to light and investigated.  The Human Rights Council (HRC), which is responsible for addressing human rights abuses and offering advice on them, introduced the ‘Universal Periodic Review’ (UPR) in 2007 – just one year after the creation of the council (The United Nations Human Rights Council, 2019).  The Periodic Review commands nations – whether they be members of the UN or not – to conduct reports on and subsequently receive evaluation of and discuss their human rights procedures every four years (Nickel, 2017).  However, the human rights framework of each state is discussed by The Working Group which comprises 47 members of the HRC – some of which commit human rights abuses themselves which increases the risk that the abuses committed by the state under review will be minimised or concealed by HRC members for personal or economic gain.  Moreover, the limited role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and experts in human rights, who would be independent evaluators, could be considered to aid HRC members in the concealment of violations (Moss, 2010).  A further issue here is that if we consider the commonly held view of nations being primarily responsible for committing human rights violations in international law, then we may also consider the possibility that nations may fabricate a report on their country in order to conceal abuses taking place – especially as there are no independent evaluators and UN Special Rapporteurs are only permitted to enter a nation in order to evaluate violations at the discretion of the state in question.  An example of this would be China.  China’s UPR states, in section B sub-topic 6 (Freedom of Speech and of the news media), “The Chinese government protects citizens’ freedom of speech…” (Government of the Peoples’ Republic of China, 2018).  Despite this claim, it has been discovered that citizens do not have complete freedom of speech.  While criticism of China, political leaders and policies are not censored, internet posts which advocate for or against a protest or in favour of or against policies or leaders face almost certain censorship (King, et al., 2014).  Additionally, in section B sub-topic 3 (Prohibition of torture), the report claims that “The Ministry of Public Security…is eradicating the use of torture to extract confessions”.  Throughout China’s UPR no outline is provided as to how confessions are being extracted without the use of torture and there is no deadline as to when use of torture for this purpose will be eradicated completely.  This indicates that China is simply attempting to superficially satisfy the UN’s recommendations to avoid sanctions.  Furthermore, The UN expressed concern regarding ethnic minorities’ right to cultural life and religion (Human Rights Council, 2018).  In its UPR, China made no mention of the human rights violations committed against the Uighur people of Xinjiang (a region of western China) yet numerous reports have unearthed re-education camps for reforming Muslim Uighurs and Imams and “an attempt to weaken Uighur identity” (Clarke, 2010) which is a clear violation of their right to cultural life and freedom of religion.  These examples prove that the way in which the Universal Periodic Review, implemented by the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, is carried out (the violating state reviewing itself) is deeply flawed and inhibits human rights from being truly universal.
Furthermore, one could argue that the UN’s vision of human rights can never become truly universal due to cultural incompatibilities.  Despite the drafting committee involving members with different cultural backgrounds, these were a minority – with only two nations being of a non-European-majority population or control.  Furthermore, members from China (Peng Chun Chang) and Lebanon (Charles Malik) were both educated in the United States which suggests any unique cultural input may have been lost or disregarded.  The declaration faced ideological opposition from the USSR which favoured a Marxist approach and collectivism, while other members strongly believed in individualism and individual rights.  Due to these disputes, Soviet representatives appeared nonchalant and did not fully participate in debates or meetings and ultimately, abstained from signing the declaration alongside other Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) states such as Byelorussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR (Johnson, 2003).  Moreover, the USSR was not alone in its abstention.  Saudi Arabia abstained citing religious differences – and while many other predominantly Muslim nations voted in favour, Saudi Arabia believed that the declaration violated Sharia (Islamic Law) with its representative asserting that the declaration itself was more focused on ‘western culture’ and was “at variance with patterns of culture of Eastern States” (Abiad, 2008).  This is supported by Glen Johnson’s claim that while there were references to Islam or Confucianism, “the general focus on European traditions…prevailed” (Johnson, 2003).  Ultimately, it is no surprise that other human rights declarations, such as the Arab Charter on Human Rights (2004) and The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (1990) came into existence.  These documents focused on human rights and their relation to Islam in particular and were more in-line with the views of Muslim-majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia which opposed the protection of civil and political rights – which were seen as ‘western values’ – as well as religious freedoms (Sarfaty, 2009).  It is clear that many believe the articles set out in the declaration by the UN focus mainly on ‘western’ values, beliefs and ideologies and are therefore, culturally and ideologically incompatible outside of Europe and countries with strong links to these states as well as states which are ideologically-aligned with Europe (USA, Australia for example) which implies they shall never be truly universal.  However, as Linda Hajjar Leib indicates “Cultural relativism is a convenient concept for undemocratic governments…it equips them with a ‘legitimate’ excuse to control and intimidate” (Hajjar Leib, 2010). This shows that it may not be for cultural reasons that human rights are not universal, but rather reasons of power and control, suggesting that universal rights may be achievable in the future.
To conclude, the United Nations have so far not succeeded in achieving universal human rights.  It could be said that this is due to three reasons: a lack of foresight regarding its drafting committee which caused an overepresentation of European views, the process in which it reviews human rights records which unfortunately, affords nations an opportunity to deceive through the Universal Periodic Review it carries out on itself,  and due to rejections of the declaration stemming from cultural incompatibilities or intolerance of the ‘western’ views it promotes.  However, it is this declaration that has been so highly praised as a milestone in the name of Human Rights and it could therefore be that universal human rights may be achievable in the future should repressive regimes and traditionalism cease to exist as suggested by Hajjar Leib – though this would be a utopian ideal and is therefore, unrealistic which ultimately implies that human rights shall never be truly universal.

Джонсон, Г., 2003. Разработка Всеобщей декларации прав человека (1946-1948ГГ). Развитиеличности, Issue 4, pp. 10-20.
Johnson, G., 2003. Razrabotka Vseobshchey deklaratsii prav cheloveka (1946-1948). Razvitiye lichnosti, Issue 4, pp. 10-20.
Abiad, N., 2008. Sharia, Muslim States and International Human Rights Treaty Obligations: A Comparative Study. 1st Edition ed. s.l.:British Institute of International and Comparative Law.
Amnesty International, 2019. What We Do. [Online]Available at:[Accessed 6 February 2019].
Brown, G., 2016. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the 21st Century: A Living Document in a Changing World. 1st Edition ed. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers.
Clarke, M., 2010. Widening the net: China’s anti-terror laws and human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The International Journal of Human Rights, 14(4), pp. 542-558.
Government of the Peoples’ Republic of China, 2018. National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21** – China, Geneva: United Nations General Assembly.
Hajjar Leib, L., 2010. Human Rights and the Environment: Philosophical, Theoretical and Legal Perspectives. 1st Edition ed. s.l.:Brill.
Human Rights Council, 2018. Compilation on China – Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva: United Nations General Assembly.
Human Rights Watch, 2019. About Us. [Online]Available at:[Accessed 6 February 2019].
King, G., Pan, J. & Roberts, E. M., 2014. Reverse-engineering censorship in China: Randomized experimentation and participant observation. Science, 345(6199).
Moss, C. L., 2010. Opportunities for Nongovernmental Organization Advocacy in the Universal Periodic Review Process at the UN Human Rights Council. Journal of Human Rights Practice, II(1), pp. 122-150.
Nickel, J., 2017. Human Rights. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Volume Spring, p. 5.3.2.
Roosevelt, D. F., 1947. The Four Freedoms. World Affairs, 110(1), p. 58.
Sarfaty, A. G., 2009. Why Culture Matters in International Institutions: The Marginality of Human Rights at the World Bank. The American Journal of International Law, 103(4), pp. 654-665.
The United Nations Human Rights Council, 2019. About HRC. [Online]Available at:[Accessed 7 February 2019].
The United Nations, n.d.. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [Online]Available at:[Accessed 6 February 2019].


The Pursuit of Virtue over Strength in History of the Peloponnesian War

In History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides claims that his account of the Peloponnesian war, “is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public but was done to last for ever” (Brown, Nardin, & Rengger, 2014, p.35). This statement is correct, as different interpretations of his work are being discussed thousands of years later. The current Trump Administration, for instance, seems to prefer the realist interpretation of Thucydides, where international relations are defined through raw strength and power. However, this interpretation lacks an understanding of the fundamental message of Thucydides’ work. This paper argues that, Thucydides’ reveals that when a state’s interests are pursued outside of the confines of virtue and morality, it can result in the destruction of a state. As a result, it is within a state’s self-interest to pursue virtue over strength. First, this paper will examine how the power of a state must be attained and maintained through virtue, as it provides a state with the moral authority to build an empire. Then, this paper will discuss how the pursuit of strength results in destruction, which are contrary to the interests of the state.

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To begin, it is important to understand the different perceptions of self-interest between the Trump administration and Thucydides. The Trump team’s interpretation of Thucydides is based on the assumption that it is within a state’s self-interest to act in accordance with their strength. When a state is powerful enough, it is within their self-interest to continue to use that strength to maintain their power. As such, weaker states must adapt to the decisions made by stronger states. This is embodied in the Athenian argument in the Melian dialogue that “the standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel and that in the fact the strong do what they have to do and the weak accept what they have to accept” (Brown et al., 2014, p.55). Given that Melos was a smaller and weaker state, the Athenians argued that they had the power to conquer the island and thus, the Melians should surrender. Despite this, when one considers the entirety of History, Thucydides presents a different definition of self-interest, where it is within a state’s self-interest to act virtuously.
The power of a state is gained and maintained through virtuous actions, as it gives a state the moral authority required for leadership.
The Athenians gained the authority to lead the Greek world, by meeting a high moral standard through their virtuous actions. Throughout his funeral oration, Pericles presents Athens as an “education to Greece”, as it is the model free and tolerant society (Brown et al., 2014, p. 38-39). This is evident in their system of democracy where “power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people” (Brown et al., 2014, p.37). Additionally, Pericles emphasizes how “everyone is equal before the law” and “no one […] is kept in political obscurity because of poverty” (Brown et al., 2014, p.38). Furthermore, Pericles maintains that Athens “make[s] friends by doing good to others”, which makes “[their] friendship all the more reliable, since [they] want to keep alive the gratitude of those who are in our debt by showing continued good will to them” (Brown et al., 2014, p.39). Altogether, Athens is respected in the Greek World because they “are free and tolerant in [their] private lives; but in public affairs they keep to the law” (Brown et al., 2014, 38). As a result of these actions, Athens had gained moral authority in the eyes of smaller city-states, and consequently, the Athenians were able to build their empire through the creation of the Delian League. This helped the Athenian empire grow in its strength as allies “were to pay a […] sum of money” and the “Athenian navy grew strong at their expense” (Thucydides, 1972, I.93).  In order to gain the power to build an empire, a state needs to act virtuously to build up their moral authority, so that smaller states are inclined to support them.
In contrast, when a state abuses their power by not acting virtuously, it reduces the power of the state as it undermines credibility and moral authority.
As the Athenians begin to abuse their power, they slowly lose their moral authority. This was the warning issued to the Athenians during the Melian Dialogue. In response to the Athenian threat to invade the island of Melos, the Melians implore the Athenians to treat other states with moderation and with fairness. The Melians insist that, virtue is “a principle that is to the general good of all men […] in the case of all who fall into danger there should be a thing as fair play and just dealing […] this is a principle which affects you as much as anybody” (Brown et al.,2014, p.55). This moment served as a turning point for the Athenians in the war, as it was a reminder of how the Athenians previously benefitted from acting virtuously. If the Athenians were to abandon these principles, it could hurt the foundation of their empire. As such it was within their interests to continue this behaviour, rather than abusing their power in the pursuit of strength.
In order to maintain power, it is within a state’s self-interest to pursue virtuous actions, as these actions solidify the moral authority required in leadership. However, when a state defines their self-interest as pursuing their strength at the expense of other states, they lose the ability to maintain their political legitimacy. As such, while the Athenian conquest of Melos is a demonstration of their strength, it also undermines the key principles that allowed them to build their empire. Consequently, this is seen as the beginning of the end for Athens as, over the course of the war, they slowly loose the moral authority to maintain their power. Although states, may have the strength to grow their power through the subjection of others, that does not mean that this is the rational approach. Rather, it is within a state’s interest to act virtuously in the pursuit and maintenance of power.
Furthermore, the pursuit of self-interest through strength comes at the expense of an orderly society. When states perceive their interests to be aligned with the pursuit of strength, they are more likely to go to war, which comes with catastrophic results.
When states perceive their interests to be aligned with their strength, they are more likely to go to war to diffuse any threat to their strength. In this context, war is perceived as a rational action that can maintain national interests. For instance, as Athenian strength became dominant, it was perceived as a threat to the Spartans, who pursued war in response. As Thucydides outlines in the beginning, “what made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this instilled in Sparta” (Brown et al.,2014, p.36). Following the events of the Persian War, the Athenians were gaining both diplomatic and militaristic strength, which was perceived as a threat to Spartan interests. The Athenians extended their influence in the Greek World through the formation of the Delian League, where member-states would provide a tribute to Athens in exchange for its protection. The tributes paid by the Delian League to Athens helped with the growth of the Athenian Navy, bolstering its military strength.
In response to this growth of Athenian strength, Spartans felt as if their position in the Greek World were being threatened, and pursued war. As highlighted by the Corinthians during the Debate at Sparta, the Athenians were perceived as the innovative leaders of the Greek World. While “[Sparta was] hanging back, [the Athenians] never hesitate; while [Spartans] stay at home, they are always abroad” (I.76). Moreover, the Athenian “is always an innovator, quick to form a resolution and quick at carrying it out” (I.75).  The growth of Athenian strength threatened Sparta’s place in the Greek World as it became clear that the Athenian Empire was the dominant city-state in the Peloponnese. In order to prevent Athenian strength from eclipsing the strength of Sparta, it was believed to be in the Spartans best interest to go to war, despite the warnings of King Archidamus. As a result, from perceiving self-interest to be defined by pursuing strength, Sparta and her allies were willing to go to war, to preserve Spartan interests.
Although it was perceived to be within the state’s interest to pursue war, Thucydides’ reveals how this interpretation of self-interest came at the expense of good and orderly society, as it results in a disregard for the conventions that govern society.
For instance, the events of the Corcyra Civil War reveal the worst of human nature, as war disregarded the rules that governed society. The Corcyreans massacred their own citizens, as they were accused “of conspiring to overthrow the democracy” and “men were often killed on grounds of personal hatred of by […] their debtors” (III.241). Furthermore, “there were fathers who killed their sons; men were dragged from the temples or butchered on the very altars” (III.241).
Moreover, the Athenian defeat at Sicily resulted in a complete disregard for the traditional customs that are observed during times of war. For instance, traditionally it was an “annual custom [to] give a public funeral for those who had […] died in the war” (Brown et al., 2014, p.36). In contrast, due to the detrimental effects of the battle on Athenian morale, they “were so oppressed by the present weight of their misfortune that they never even thought of asking for permission to take up their dead or the wreckage” (VII.526). So “the dead were unburied, and when any man recognized one of his friends lying among them, he was filled with grief and fear” (VII.528).
Both the Civil War at Corcyra and the Athenian Expedition reveal that war, although pursued with the intention of gaining strength, is not necessarily an honourable pursuit. It results in a disregard for the basic conventions that govern society and immense human misery.
Though the Spartans pursued their interests by challenging the strength of the Athenian Empire, the war had resulted in a complete breakdown of the customs and traditions that defined good and orderly societies. As a result, the Spartans and the rest of the Greek world, would have been better off if the Spartans had perceived their interests to be in accordance with virtue as opposed to strength.
Overall, Thucydides’ work reveals that it is not within a state’s interest to pursue strength. Rather, states are better off pursuing their interests within the confines of virtue and morality. This is because power is gained through virtuous actions, as outlined in Pericles Funeral Oration. The Athenians were able to build their empire due to the moral authority that was produced through their virtuous actions. However, when that power is abused, states risk losing their moral authority and thus, their power. Furthermore, when states perceive their interests to be defined through strength, they are more likely to go to war, resulting in the destruction of society. Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War reveals the disadvantages of raw strength, and the benefits of virtuous actions. As a result, states in the modern era should act accordingly.

Brown, C., Nardin, T., & Rengger, N. (2014). International Relations in Political Thought: texts from the ancient Greeks to the First World War. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Thucydides., Warner R. (Ed. and Trans.). (1972.) History of the Peloponnesian War. London: Penguin Books.


The Pursuit of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is a tragic love story on the outside but is most commonly understood as a skeptical judge of the American Dream. In the novel, Jay Gatsby overcomes his poor past to gain a substantial amount of money in the 1920s NYC, as he fulfills his eventful life impacted by characters in the big city. The idea of the American Dream, is where qualities of hard work and ambition are revealed. The novel The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald embodies many themes; however the most compelling one relates to the corruption it in tales. The American Dream is defined as someone starting low on the economic or social level, and working hard towards prosperity and or wealth and fame, (Webster, 2019). The idea of The American Dream in the 20’s to the idea of the American Dream in 2019 can be shown through contrasting the wealth, social class and realities of the characters in the book to that of our current time.

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Being successful does not come easily, it always takes hard work, dedication, and will power. To Myrtle Wilson, the American Dream is to instantly become very rich and high class. For her, this is very difficult to achieve. She is married to a working, middle class man who owns an auto shop in an old part of New York. Myrtle is so corrupted by money and wealth, that she cheats on her dedicated, loving and hardworking husband, in order to be with Tom Buchanon’s wealth. When describing her marriage, Myrtle said, “The only crazy I was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in . . . then I lay down and cried to beat the band all afternoon,” (Fitzgerald, 35). Myrtle is caught up in her reputation and how she pursues herself throughout the novel as she is always focused on expectations of wealth and happiness. “I married because I thought he was a gentleman,” she said finally. “I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe.”(Fitzgerald, 1925). John bowen also shares a strong opinion for expectations of wealth, “He portrays in detail the extraordinary variety of ways, in small differences of clothing, accent and behaviour, by which people show and act out their class identities and aspirations. He is constantly drawn to characters who are at the margins, rather than the centre, of social classes,” (Bowen, 2019). Social class plays a large role in the novel as well as in today’s society. As a 21st century-female Myrtle Wilson, struggled to reconsider herself, her class, and escape a marriage that she believed did not reflect her place within the social ranking. In contrast Bowen describes people and their differences through looks and reality, as myrtle illustrates during the novel.
Moving to the big city is a mission of many people in this world today. The lights and the life of Los Angeles, New York, Paris etc. really intrigues individuals. The American Dream is drastically different now because of the development of big cities and society, but that doesn’t stop generations from contrasting expectations. In 1922 in Long Island, New York City with a comparison between the ‘West Egg’ and the ‘East Egg’, each are different classes of wealth, “I lived at West Egg, the well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. my house was at the very tip of the egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season…Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water,” (Fitzgerald, 1925). Gatsby is a young, charming, attractive adult with a dark background “Precisely at that point it vanished and I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd” (Fitzgerald, 1925). He is very popular within the city because of his constant elaborate parties and enticing mansion.  An article written by Susan T. Fiske, she states: “ It emerges that people are constantly and keenly aware of their ranking and that those at the top of the social ladder think, feel, and act differently from those on the lower rungs. This appears to happen, whether one’s superior position is objectively anchored with resources and status, subjectively experienced or manifest through power and influence.” (Fiske, 2018 ).  Susan describes how higher class people usually have a higher sense of themselves, independence from others and the need to have a lot of attention around them. Jay Gatsby’s monetary success is the result of his own hard work, work that is questionable from a legal viewpoint. This earns him designation of nouveau riche, and there is no extent of wealth that can buy his entry into the highest social class. In contrast, he pursued the american dream with hard work, and dedication to his wealth . Unlike Nick Carraway, who narrates the novel, he also comes from a privileged background. This gives him the opportunity to begin a new career in finance. He does not, however, live a life of richness. His family’s help is only used to start his career. “Whenever you feel like criticising any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” (Fitzgerald, 1925).  Today, many people work hard for their success, as accomplishing many of your goals has become much harder, the american dream in today’s society through work has increased much more, than in the novel.
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 Lastly, the aspect of money creates an urge in human nature to obtain it and have an access of it. When people come onto topics relating to wealth and begin rising on the social ladder, they usually become corrupted, and can alter their personal values. What most people enjoy is what Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, and Jordan all possess. “All of the players in Gatsby are in one way or another posing, always striving to maintain an image” (Heims, 2010). Jay Gatsby was a man fascinated with a dream of love and wealth. In his head, Gatsby created an unapproachable illusion of happiness and joy with Daisy Buchanan. Towards the end of the book they fell back in love and were happy again, until death occurred. Devoted to pursuing Daisy no matter the price, Gatsby illegally retrieved riches in an attempt to gain Daisy’s heart. Although Gatsby was a kind-hearted, loving man, he became distracted by the drag of the world, eventually resulting in his death. “She wanted her life shaped now, immediately- and the decision must be made by some force- of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality- that was close at hand,” (Fitzgerald, 1925). Gatsby created himself with an image as a prosperous man with everything he could ever want. From the popular parties to the way he carried himself, Gatsby mislead not only those around him, but Gatsby also mislead himself into believing the lie, which took over his life. Hoping for a future of joy and perfection with Daisy as his one true love, Gatsby developed an obsession for making his dream become common in his daily life. In reality daisy only loved Gatsby for his money and wealth. People create such a high image of themselves for example wealth, that Daisy never really saw Jay Gatsby for who he really was. The american dream for Jay has always been high, but people become blind to wealth. This is common in today’s world, when people see money they head straight for it. An article by Paul Watchel, from the University of Guelph further dove into this idea “The idea of one’s self living a life much better than the one they reside can force your brain to make you accomplish and do things that you may see unimaginable” (Watchel, 2019).
In The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald the power and drive the American Dream creates  is present through wealth, social class, and the realities of the characters. The American Dream is defined as someone starting low on the economic, or social level, and working hard to achieve wealth and prosperity. Amongst the reading and understanding of this story it’s evident that the American dream has changed much since the time in which the book takes place in, to the time in which we live in now. The story taught us a very important lesson that should be easily interpreted into our society in which money can’t buy you happiness.
Work Cited

“Great Expectations And Class”. The British Library, 2019,
“Facing Social Class”. Google Books, 2019,  
Fitzgerald, F.Scott. The Great Gatsby. Penguin Books, 1950.
Wachtel, Paul L., et al., “Perceptions of Economic Needs and of Anticipated Future Income.” Journal of  Economic Psychology 11.3 (1990): 403-15. Web. 8 July 2019
“Definition Of THE AMERICAN DREAM”. Merriam-Webster.Com, 2019,